The strength of your yoga is most tested in your intimate relationships.
Many years ago, I read Judith Hanson Lasater’s book: Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. In it, there is a quote that has stayed with me and that I have never forgotten:
For me, the strength of my yoga is not necessarily tested during my practice of poses or breathing techniques but in my intimate relationships. Here, my angers, attachments and fears are not so easily hidden under a mantle of denial, accomplishments or achievements.
- Judith Hanson Lasater
When I first read this quote, I wasn’t a mom, but the quote rang true. Now, I’m a mom of two teens and the quote couldn’t hit closer to home. Parent or not, intimate relationships challenge us. I may feel quite the yogini when I sit for meditation and do my pranayama practice upstairs in my bedroom, but what happens when I go downstairs and get the kids ready for school and find that they aren’t up and dressed? Do I maintain my yogic poise or do I scream?
I talk a lot about how yoga is about connections. In this post, I want to share with you my adventures with family meetings, basically how having family meetings helps us improve in communicating our emotions, needs and desires and they help us learn to support one another in our collective and individual evolution.
The Family Meeting
I heard about the idea of the family meetings long before I had kids when I was working as an elementary teacher and I held a weekly class meeting where we could collectively discuss what was working well and what was not in the classroom and on the playground, offer praise and appreciation for one another and also engage in conflict resolution. I learned a lot from teaching this meeting method to first graders.
Fast forward to my own family. When I became a parent, once the kids were old enough to communicate and sit for five minutes or so, we tried the family meeting thing. In the beginning, it was mostly a structure to help the my kids express and work out sibling conflicts and teach them how to communicate. (“Sage, it really makes me mad when you smash my lego creations!”) We tended to mostly only do family meetings when there were issues or big plans that needed attention. And, then there was a long lapse in which we all kind of forgot about the family meeting.
Getting Buy In
About five years ago, I approached Steve and the kids about starting up the family meeting again on a regular basis again. No one jumped up and down and said, “hurray!” In fact, Steve was pretty lackluster about the idea, and the kids thought it sounded totally stupid. But, I persisted and two years later, we do family meetings every week and we all agree that they make a big difference.
To get there, I had to make sure that there was “buy in.” I call this WIIFM - what’s in it for me? Without WIIFM, no one was going to agree to meet. WIIFM looks a little different for each person. For teens, good food at the meeting creates buy-in. Think waffles with maple syrup. I decided I better make a great Sunday breakfast if I expected my kids to be amenable to meeting on Sunday mornings. Also for teens, I let them know that the family meeting was the forum for getting parental support (or rides) for any social plans they might be making is a motivator. For my husband, the buy-in was to remind him that the family meeting is a place to get support for yard projects or for going out and doing something fun on his own or with friends. For me, WIIFM is sanity, a sense that I know how the next week is going to go more smoothly.
7 ways family meetings make life more harmonious:
Here’s how to run an effective family meeting:
Create a shared set of family agreements. This was our first task when we started to do meetings on a regular basis. We created a set of agreements, or you might call them values or a code, that we could all agree to uphold. This took us a while. We all weighed in and we came to consensus on the agreements. Without these, we wouldn’t really have a strong container for how to communicate and we wouldn’t have a big “why” for engaging in the meeting. My family’s list of agreements is dynamic. That is, from time to time, we edit and change them a bit to reflect where we are.
These are our current family agreements:
Set a neutral meeting time. By neutral, I mean, a time when we are generally all relaxed. For us, it is generally Sunday morning or Sunday evening. We meet for twenty to thirty minutes. We try to keep the meeting efficient and upbeat.
Have an agenda. Each person can contribute to the agenda, and many agenda items are the same from week to week.
Here is a typical family meeting agenda:
End on time. No one wants to sit in the meeting forever. Starting and ending on time is important. After the meeting, do something fun!
Family meetings aren’t just for families! They are for anyone who is on the path to personal and planetary evolution. If there is one thing I have learned about evolution, it is that people evolve faster in a group than on their own. If you clearly identify as someone is actively seeking personal and planetary evolution then the family meeting is going to be a catalyst for this. The family meeting is a weekly place to review values, practice compassion, work on interpersonal communication skills, and learn to keep a schedule. Maybe you don’t have kids, or your kids have left home. No matter. The family meeting structure can be used with the folks you consider to be core peeps in your life, the people with whom you want to evolve. Maybe you and your partner meet weekly, or if you live alone, maybe you meet weekly with close friends.
Yoga is about connection and evolution. May your family meetings foster both! Drop me a line and let me know how they go!
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.